Microsoft have officially launched Windows Phone 7 and with it the Windows Phone Series, promising we’ll see the first devices on the market in time for the holiday 2010 shopping season. Windows Phone 7 marks a new, more end-user aware phase for the platform, with Zune and Xbox integration, together with stricter controls over the overall end-user experience: third-party UIs, such as HTC Sense, will not be allowed (though OEMs will be able to add into the new WP7 UI), and while they’re not yet revealing the details, Microsoft have a long technical specifications list for handset manufacturers that will better standardize the platform.
There are no handsets debuting today – though HTC, Dell and Qualcomm are among the manufacturers onboard – and all of the demo devices are unbranded, generic models specially built by ASUS. Still, they’re a decent example of what we can expect: a large, multitouch-friendly capacitive touchscreen with a glass front, three front-panel buttons (back, Start and search), GPS and a rear-mounted camera. They also have a front-facing camera, though there won’t apparently be support for it natively in Windows Phone 7, and OEMs are limited to what hardware controls they can add; it’s pretty much down to volume buttons, camera shortcut and power.